The intelligence of children is intimately connected with the quality and extent of their exposure to language. -Montessori from the Start
If you are a quiet person like me, start talking! I nannied for a toddler back during my quiet, shy early college days and honestly we didn't talk a whole lot since she had nothing to say besides baby jabber and I felt silly talking to myself. Her parents were also not the talkative type, they did tons for their daughter and showed her lots of affection, they just weren't very verbal people once they got home from their jobs each evening. That girl ended up in speech therapy to get her talking clearly when she was about 4 years old. Nobody is around, get over any silliness you feel talking "to yourself" when you're at home with the baby and just start getting into the habit of talking and listening to your child.
Therefore, it is imperative to talk to your baby often throughout his day, naming objects, discussing actions, relating events, and describing people and their apparent feelings. -Montessori from the Start
Talk, talk, talk--adult talk, not baby talk. Talk to her while you're walking in the park, while you're riding in the car, while you're fixing dinner. Tell her what you're doing while you're doing it...This sort of constant chatter lays a verbal foundation in your child's mind. She's learning that words are used to plan, to think, to explain; she's figuring out how the English language organizes words into phrases, clauses, and complete sentences.-- The Well Trained Mind p.27
So how do we do that specifically?
- Tell your child what you're doing or about to do--"Mommy is putting on her coat, then I will put on your coat so we can go to the store."
- Name things-- "here's the kitty" (point) "would you like the ball?" (hold the ball up)
- Read Aloud--even if you read college textbooks aloud as you nurse your baby or as your toddler plays in the bathtub, it is language! More traditional books like The Snowy Day board book are great too :)
- Sing--children often memorize songs naturally so songs are a fantastic tool for language introduction and show the beauty of words put to a tune. Tobias "sings" in the car along with me all the time. I can't understand a word he's saying but it's awfully cute and he's having fun!
- Listen--when your baby or child babbles at you in nonsense toddler language simple smile, nod, and exclaim "oh really?" "isn't that interesting" "hmmm" in response. This encourages the use of verbal words to get Mom's attention and to communicate things.
- Name and Describe Feelings--when your child is tired and cranky, say "you are tired because it's your nap time. Let's go in your room and read a book to settle down for sleep."
Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen
The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg